This was an interesting way to briefly consider the ways in which Americans have thought of themselves as part of a bigger story than their individual lives. Delbanco doesn’t idealize the past, and he notes that jeremiads lamenting a lost sense of purpose have a long history in American culture. These guardrails help him to offer a thoughtful overview of American identity. He looks at the Puritan view of individuals and society under God and then the emergence of 19th- and 20th-century American nationalism based on the ideal of equality for all, and follows those considerations with an attempt to make sense of our more fractured, consumeristic, and individualistic age in which we have a more difficult time agreeing on a shared story.
An overview of American identity